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A Bickerstaff's Burying; or, Work for the Beholders

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Title:A Bickerstaff's Burying; or, Work for the Beholders
Centlivre, Susanna   
(4 of 18 for author by title)
A Bold Stroke for a Wife
The Beau's Duel
Published:   1760
Tags:drama, fiction, humour

A British ship runs aground on the coast of India and the crew encounter the realities of a version of "suttee" that applies to men as well as women.

And if that sounds a bit grim, fret not -- it's a farce, after all, so it's all played for comedy. The Emir in question isn't really dying, he just likes to keep his English wife under his thumb. And the English wife isn't really dead, she's gone on the lam with the captain of the vessel, now repaired.

Plot holes the size of the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the usual rudeness about just about everyone except the English military.

This play is from vol. 3 of the collected works. [Suggest a different description.]

Pages:42 Info

Author Bio for Centlivre, Susanna

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Susanna Centlivre (c. 1667 to 1670—1 December 1723), born Susanna Freeman and also known professionally as Susanna Carroll, was an English poet, actress, and "the most successful female playwright of the eighteenth century". Centlivre's "pieces continued to be acted after the theatre managers had forgotten most of her contemporaries." During a long career at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, she became known as the second woman of the English stage, after Aphra Behn.

Centlivre's plays show a strikingly liberal point of view. She wrote frankly in the face of strong sexual mores that discouraged women playwrights. Centlivre managed to push the boundaries of contemporary social norms, and yet she was widely appreciated only as a comic writer. She did not garner much positive critical acclaim. Although her plays enjoyed success in theatres, critics such as William Hazlitt wrote condescendingly of them. Alexander Pope found her writings offensive for political and religious reasons, and thought them a threat to greater dramatists by pandering to popular taste. He went so far as to assume that she had helped with Edmund Curll's pamphlet The Catholic Poet: or, Protestant Barnaby's Sorrowful Lamentation. For those reasons she was lampooned as having a supposedly mannish appearance (among other faults), most famously by Pope in several pieces. Regardless of her peers' opinions, her plays continued to be performed for over 150 years after her death.

Overall, Centlivre was a powerful influence on society as a female intellect. Her works encouraged female writers to continue to push the limits of traditional feminine roles by publicly treating the cause of equality between the sexes. The diarist Agnes Porter, governess to the children of the earl of Ilchester, saw a performance of Centlivre's The Busy Body at the Little Theatre, Haymarket on 7 March 1791, but wrote that it was "very badly performed".--Wikipedia.

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